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U.S. Shale Producers Stick To Output Discipline

Despite a strong rebound in oil prices, seeing them hit three-year highs, U.S. shale oil producers are sticking to their output discipline, Reuters reports, citing rig count data and industry insiders.

While West Texas Intermediate has passed the $70-per-barrel mark that makes a lot more shale output profitable, producers are wary of bringing back too much production too quickly.

Under other circumstances, drillers would have been adding rigs consistently, but this year, the rig count has been swinging between weekly additions and declines, according to Baker Hughes data.

Reuters notes in its report that the last time WTI traded at $73 per barrel, there were more than 1,000 active drilling rigs in the shale patch. To date, there are some 470.

Production also fluctuates. Last week, the Energy Information Administration estimated total national output of 11.1 million bpd for the week to June 18. That was down by 100,000 bpd from the previous week. It was also just 100,000 bpd higher than output for the same week a year ago, at the height of the pandemic crisis.

Shale output this month has averaged 7.77 million bpd, down from a high of 9.18 million bpd in January last year. First-quarter output, according to Reuters, has been at 83 percent of last year’s peak.

What’s more, there is little chance of this changing even as prices are expected to continue climbing higher. The chief executive of Pioneer Natural Resources, Scott Sheffield, told Reuters he did not see shale oil producers adding more rigs even if prices rose closer to $80 a barrel. In fact, Pioneer may even reduce the number of rigs it uses to drill new wells thanks to improving efficiencies.

Yet, there is also caution about OPEC+. The cartel is considering adding more of its own output to global supply in the next two months, and this may slow down the climb of oil prices.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • George Doolittle on June 28 2021 said:
    "paying their utility bills."

    No brownouts in the Upper Midwest.
    Once they go all in on distributed grid they'll be exporting massive amounts of electricity too.

    Those electrons won't be going to Texas tho!
    More like Minnesota and Wisconsin and in a huge way I imagine.

    Just an absolute flood of electrons coming in from Canada at the moment.

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